Staying healthy as summer comes earlier

February 27, 2017


Jordan Smith
Zenith News

Although we humans are quite adaptable and live in climates all over the globe, we are warm-blooded creatures and need to maintain a core body temperature of very close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can result from too cold an internal temperature; hyperthermia from too hot.

In locales such as the Twin Ports, the mortality rate is highest during winter. For starters, cold reduces our resistance to infection. During winter months, it is more common to remain indoors in close contact with each other, making the spread of germs that much easier.

Viruses, like the cold and flu, survive more easily in winter’s dry conditions. In summer, viruses are more likely to get picked up by water droplets and fall to the ground. Cold weather also increases your blood pressure, so be careful about overexertion in the cold air.

Dermatitis can flare up, as your skin is much more likely to dry out during winter, while raising indoor temperatures tends to sap humidity.

Bacterial infections increase an average of 17 percent with every 10-degree rise in seasonal temperature, including food- and waterborne bacteria. Rising air currents during this time also carry allergens, such as pollen, resulting in hay fever and asthma.

While mosquitoes are a local pest, they’re a health menace in most of the world, carrying malaria, dengue, and encephalitis in tropical and subtropical regions. Locally, the most common insect-borne illness is Lyme disease from ticks.

Sudden changes in temperature and humidity are associated with respiratory infections, muscle aches and pains, migraines, bleeding ulcers, and even heart attacks. Some folks say they can predict changes in the weather by joint pains and arthritis, including the “phantom pains” of some amputees. One theory is that the rate of response to such climatic shifts on the human skin can fluctuate between healthy skin and scar tissue surrounding an amputation.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is associated with lack of sunlight during winter months, marked by irritability, depression, and anxiety. Warming spring weather is sometimes blamed for spikes in violent crime. However, Americans also consume the most alcohol between December and March, so it’s possible that this accounts for any increase in violence.

Whole summers can come and go in Duluth with little need for air conditioning, but you still lose up to two liters of fluid per hour during high temperatures and humidity, so stay well hydrated and replenish electrolytes.

Humans are much less able to adapt to cold than to heat and, since children are smaller than adults, they’re more vulnerable to hypothermia—even though kids never seem to notice when they are cold!

In some ways, we’re even genetically adapted to climate. In hot, arid deserts, a slim body with long limbs makes sweating more efficient, and dark skin provides added protection from sunlight. In polar and sub-polar regions, the ability to put on a few pounds of fat adds an extra layer of protection from the cold, while light skin absorbs more Vitamin D from limited sunlight.

Look for above average temperatures early in March, but overall, we might be a few degrees below average, with a little freezing rain towards the end of the month.

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